The high-profile killings of police officers in Texas and Illinois have come at a time of strained relations between law enforcement and Black communities, as the #BlackLivesMatter movement demands an end to police violence against Black bodies. Now, voices from the right are focusing on this new Black-led protest movement and blaming the activists for the deaths of police officers. Their purpose is to silence politically-directed Black rage, reflecting a denial of white supremacy and the role that white America plays in its preservation.
As was reported in Reuters, although the number of police deaths this year—24 to date—is not out of the ordinary, and the latest fatalities were unrelated to the current climate, some police officers say they fear for their safety on the beat. Further, voices from law enforcement say that the increased attention to police deaths, and the public hostility towards cops is taking an emotional toll on officers.
“People need to have a hard look at not just the psyche of the shooters but the psyche of the enablers, and those who would encourage or celebrate this kind of activity,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police. “There is an element in the community which encourages violence against police officers and others who might be inclined to feel that way are enabled by what they see.”
However, Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, told MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart that policing is a risky job, and officers know that when they enter the force. Franklin, a Black, retired veteran of the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department, added that better communication and improved relations with the community will alleviate the issue of police fatalities.
While the #BlackLivesMatter movement seeks accountability for law enforcement and an end to violence perpetrated against them, they are being blamed for violence against police officers, despite the complete lack of evidence and the absurdity of the claim.
On Fox News, a number of commentators, including Bill O’Reilly and Elisabeth Hasselbeck called #BlackLivesMatter a “hate group,” while Megyn Kelly said the movement is violent and anti-police. Marine Corps veteran Michael Whaley condemned Black Lives Matter activists for their anti-police rhetoric.
“This Black Lives Matter movement only promotes racism,” said Whaley in a video featured on Fox News. “And now they’re encouraging Black people to go and kill white people, because they want white people to feel what we felt 400 years ago. Newsflash: Were you living 400 years ago? Nope… All lives matter.”
Moreover, some of the Republican presidential candidates are weighing in on the issue.
“This isn’t the America I grew up in or that I want my children to grow up in. When the very people responsible for keeping us safe are targeted because they are law enforcement officials, we have a serious problem,” wrote Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, in a commentary for Hot Air. “In the last six years under President Obama, we’ve seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric. Instead of hope and change, we’ve seen racial tensions worsen and a tendency to use law enforcement as a scapegoat. This inflammatory and disgusting rhetoric has real consequences for the safety of officers who put their lives on the line for us and hampers their ability to serve the communities that need their help.”
On the campaign trial in New Hampshire, Texas senator Ted Cruz, blamed President Obama for the killing of police officers and “endangering the safety and security of us all.”
“Cops across this country are feeling the assault,” Cruz said. “They’re feeling the assault from the president, from the top on down as we see. Whether it’s in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials, of the president, of the attorney general, is to vilify law enforcement.”
This is taking place on Fox despite the fact that the goals and message of the movement are unrelated to violence or killing cops, but rather in reducing the racial disparities of the criminal justice system. Further, the goals of reducing police shootings and keeping cops safe are not mutually exclusive, as at least 10 policy proposals by #BlackLivesMatter would hold police accountable and increase their safety through better training, body cameras, limiting the use of force and ending aggressive low-level policing.
What is taking place, however, is an attempt to vilify a movement that would force an end to institutional racism and stands to transform society for the better. In the past, politicians have vilified, neutralized and co-opted racial justice movements, labeled groups as outside agitators, terrorists and threats to national security. And the leaders of those movements were told to slow down by the establishment, and when they refused they were imprisoned or assassinated.
What we are witnessing today with the scapegoating of #BlackLivesMatter activists is simply more of the same.